Play Our Way: Private Playtimes for Families affected by Autism – Next Playtime is February 7th

Families of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are invited to the Museum for a special, private playtime. The Museum will be closed to the general public, providing a more conducive play environment. Our staff has made adjustments to the lighting in our exhibit and play areas, and noise-reducing headphones will be available. Play Our Way is free, and pre-registration is not required – just come over for as little or as long as you like!

The Play Our Way monthly playtimes will continue through February 2015 thanks to the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine.

For more information about this program, contact Louisa Donelson at Louisa@kitetails.org or call 828-1234 x227

Saturday, February 7th Play Our Way runs 8-10am.

Crystal, Gem, and Fossil Fun

Last week a group of 6 to 8 year old eager-eyed rock sleuths came together for the Children’s Museum & Theatre’s first ever Crystal, Gem and Fossil camp. Having personally collected rocks (amateurly) for 25 years (my first were pebbles from my Massachusetts backyard!) I was thrilled to lead a week of activities all about the workings underground, prehistoric life and of course, shiny, luminous, precious mineralogical treasures. Here’s the week as a photo review.

If this looks like fun, check out

Where Science Meets Art Camp

August 11-15

We made a list of reasons why rocks are important and investigated objects that contain rocks and minerals (did you know a typical computer contains at least 65 different minerals?)

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We looked really closely at what sand and sediment actually is….and then we pretended to be sand granules at the bottom of a river bed.

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Eventually our sand granules buddied-up and started to stick together, turning into a sedimentary (layered, sandwich-like) rock. Once we were pushed a bit deeper into the earth we hit the metamorphic stage, and eventually deeper and we because igneous – we were SO hot that we turned into liquid, molten rock. When we couldn’t take the heat anymore…we had to pop out of the earth through a volcano! (Here we are “3…2…1…rupture!”)

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We looked at basalt and other types of volcanic rock (…and sometimes smelled them too).

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And of course, what would a science camp be without some backing soda and vinegar volcanoes?!

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To re-cap the different stages of the rock cycle, we made some rock treats, first starting with sediment (cheerios, rice crispies, chocolate chips….) we added some melted marshmallow during the Igneous stage and baked it all to be molten-chocolate-gooeyness.

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We used rock salt, Epsom salt and regular table salt (aka sodium chloride or halite) and talked about how wild it is that we eat minerals! And minerals are actually IN US! We counted the different faces of faceted gems and the vertices and created our own connect-the-dots gem painting. The salt we sprinkled on top absorbed some of the paint and made some pretty cool designs.

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We wrote and drew.

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We looked at crystals through a microscope.

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We cracked open our own geodes.

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We looked very closely and then sifted and cleaned them up, like real mineralogists.

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And had free play…once we even met the Portland fire fighters!

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Per their request we took a few ‘selfies’

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And we can’t wait to do it again! Thanks for a great week.

-Louisa

Show and Tell Gallery Displays Art Across the Autism Spectrum

The Show and Tell Gallery features the work young Maine artists diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Why are we showing this work? Because for a group that sometimes has trouble with connection and expression, it is significant when they are able to express some of their inner world. We believe art is a powerful way to communicate, and we are honored to be displaying these pieces. We celebrate this gift of expression.
 
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a sobering report stating that roughly 1 in 55 students in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. Autism and spectrum disorders (Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]) are among the fastest-growing developmental disabilities in the U.S.
 
“For those without much knowledge of autism spectrum disorders, let me provide you with a brief description: people with ASD may have trouble with social communication. Some may not be able to talk. Some may be able to talk, but we will miss the social cues in what you are saying, miss cues about physical space, pacing of words, tone of voice, and other elements of non-verbal language. This will make it difficult for us to have friends, and can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation. Often, people on the autism spectrum have intense interests that they focus on to the exclusion of all else. The world can often be a very overwhelming place, and this helps us structure it. Sensory integration challenges, such as being super sensitive to sounds, touch, light, movement, smells, texture and so on are also part of autism spectrum disorders. But there is also a sense of loyalty, of joy, of honesty and dependability that are all great aspects of those on the autism spectrum. Someone with autism is someone who is dependable and a hard worker. Someone who genuinely cares about you with all their hearts, even if they sometimes have trouble showing it. To be known by someone on the autism spectrum is to be loved more fully and less conditionally than you perhaps have ever experienced.” – Museum volunteer Kate Goldfield
 
The Show and Tell Gallery is one of several Museum & Theatre programs serving children and families affected by ASD. To learn about our Play Our Way private playtimes, workshops, and other program offerings, please contact Louisa Donelson.
The Show and Tell Gallery can be seen in the stairwell of the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine.
 
This project is made possible by the generosity of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine. 
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Update: Pop-Up Playscapes video is here!

Remember those warm summer days when we could play outside for hours without worrying about frostbite? The warm weather may have left us for a bit, but creativity carries on! No Umbrella Media’s mini-documentary on this summer’s Pop Up Playscapes events is now complete. Get a recap of the events, the inspiration behind them, and even a few tips for how to create your own pop-up playscape – indoors or out!

I’m Louisa – Be One of My Campers!

About Louisa:

BFA Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
A schooled painter and active member of Portland’s art community, Louisa instills a sense of aesthetics and creativity into all of her work as an educator. Her previous education work spans the country and includes the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco as well as work with at-risk youth in California, New Hampshire and Maine. Louisa’s deep curiosity about the world – from modern art to rocks and gems – informs her interdisciplinary approach to education with children of all ages.

About Louisa’s Camps (in her own words):

In my years of facilitating art with kids I’ve noticed the thing that can frustrate and hold us back from making really fantastic 3-d structures is a lack of creative connections or ways to make things ‘stick.’ In Magical Builders camp we’re going to focus on the non-glue connections that will open up a myriad of possibilities for future artistic building. One of the biggest challenges I faced during art school was building a cardboard chair using one 48” x 80″ inch sheet of cardboard and no adhesive. Since that assignment, I’ve been fascinated with alternative connections and am excited to share some of my findings with the campers. The project I look forward to most will entail some very large cardboard structures.

Art doesn’t need to be a quiet and introspective activity that’s fate is hanging on a wall or refrigerator; it can actually be quite the opposite. In Messy Masterpieces camp, I’m excited to harness campers’ physical energy with some really great process-based art. I feel privileged to work in a facility that can handle a mess and functions to provide children with an outlet to use their energy, work as a team and create a unique piece of art.

Talk to Louisa:

Curious about Louisa’s camps? Contact Louisa at 828-1234 x227 or email her at louisa@kitetails.org.

If you don’t have any questions and are ready to register, you can do it online here or call Shana at 828-1234 x232.

Creative Kids and Recycled Robots

What do trash robots, snake sculptures and shaving cream paper marbling all have in common? Besides being super fun, they are all educational (and messy) projects from last week’s camp, Creative Kids!

We delved into art making on Monday and didn’t stop! Friday marked the conclusion, in which our camp room turned into an art gallery. We invited all our friends and families to show off our impressive work.

What were we so busy doing, anyway? Between silly games such as acting like a certain color and trips to our neighbors, the Portland Museum of Art, campers learned about different styles of lines through the theme of ‘snakes.’ We tried sculpture, printmaking and drawing to explore straight, zigzag and curvy lines that real snakes would be shaped like or how they’d move. Our most involved piece of the week was the snake sculpture we worked on a little bit EVERY day. We first made the shape with tinfoil, and then covered it with plaster strips (the same kind used when you get a cast for a broken bone at the hospital!). Once they were dry we used masking tape to tape off lines so our stripes would be  nice and neat. We gessoed them as a final touch, so now they are super shiny like real snakes.

Another project we’re proud of is named Auto. He’s our giant trash robot! Take a look in the SmartArt exhibit and you’ll notice this friendly creature created all out of trash. It’s amazing what a little silver paint can do! Be on the look out this fall for my “Recycled Robots” program, where you’ll have a chance to make your own version and add it to our exhibit.

The campers are gone but the art lives on. If you enjoyed camp this summer, or haven’t had a chance to yet, there are still a few openings for Amazing Animal Journeys camp with Hannah. Check in at the front desk!

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Recommended reading and inspiration for our colorful snakes: Verdi, by Janell Cannon (creator of Stellaluna).
Our favorite way of learning about lines: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson

Silly Science at CMTM

Making slime
Making slime

‘Sizzle….bubble….and pop’ were popular sounds and actions as our junior scientists met for a silly and slimy summer camp last week at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. We made varieties of slimes from household materials. We turned liquids and solids into each other and experimented with gasses.We even turned our hands into paws and had relay races to study animal adaptations. Our mini explosions are over and our ‘science lab’ is now slime free, but the Silly Science campers now have some neat (and gooey) knowledge to hold on to.

-Louisa Donelson, Camp Leader

Creative Kids at CMTM

Creative Kids Camp Exhibit Opening
Creative Kids Camp Exhibit Opening

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From paper mache caterpillars inspired by Eric Carle, to Pop-Art portraits based on Andy Warhol, ten campers explored a range of materials and techniques during Creative Kids Camp in June. We looked at art from across the ages starting with ancient cave drawings. To truly understand the meanings of these images and symbols we turned our art studio into a cave adorned with dino fossils and dirt. We then mixed our own batch of paint from natural pigments and painted with our hands. We concluded the week as professional artists with an invitation only gallery opening in our Camera Obscura room. The walls were covered with inspired masterpieces, kids and adults alike.

-Louisa Donelson, Camp Leader